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The two gao46 projects implemented in Dosso Department, Western Niger, during the 1980s offer very considerable promise as agroforestry activities. Both emphasized reducing reforestation costs by relying, where possible, on natural regeneration. To assist areas where natural regeneration was impossible, project personnel worked out seedling production techniques which, from the villagers' perspective, are low cost in time and energy. Personnel also struggled to develop reliable, low-cost seedling protection systems. Yet, despite clear technical successes and a clear understanding of desirable institutional changes, the Gao Project idea continues to labour under government-defined, inappropriate tree tenure and local organizational rules. The rules are currently under review by Nigerien officials. Better-adapted rule systems may be developed in the near future. Because these developments are both critical and problematic, they should be strongly supported whenever possible.


The Nigerien FAC47/CCCE48 (1981-1985) and the UNSO Gao Projects (1984-1988) sought to sensitize rural producers to the importance of increasing gao (Acacia albida) stands on their fields. The projects encouraged farmers to protect natural regeneration of gao trees where possible. Farmers were helped to plant gao seedlings where existing stands and soil conditions were unfavorable to natural regeneration. The logic in both cases was the same: the trees play a vital role in stabilizing productivity in agricultural, mixed farming and pastoral systems. Project personnel fully accept Nigerien folk wisdom that gao trees provide multiple benefits. Project technicians detail these, more than do most rural producers. They stress protection against wind erosion, nutrient pumping, provision of dappled shade by leafless branches to buffer crops against drought during the growing season and a variety of consumptive products, such as forage for livestock, building materials and firewood.

The common goal shared by the projects was to increase concentrations of gao trees on farmers' fields from a starting ratio of six per hectare to between 35 and 50 per hectare where natural regeneration was feasible and up to 100 per hectare where artificial planting techniques were required.49 Initial evaluations of the FAC/CCCE Gao Project indicated considerable progress in the 94 villages where project personnel actively promoted the goal. After three years, the average seedling count on some 7,500 hectares was above 30 per hectare.50 Attrition is expected and does occur during the first years. Some 30 percent of naturally occurring seedlings disappear during the first year (drought, careless hoeing when the plants are tiny and browsing, are all causes cited by farmers). Die-off rates are higher in areas where gao must be artificially re-established because soil and other conditions are generally less favorable there. An initial planting of 100 seedlings per hectare might, with proper care and good luck, result in 50 healthy young trees per hectare five years later.

The costs of protecting natural regeneration under the project were set in 1985 by a CCCE evaluator at 5,800 FCFA per hectare, or 140 FCFA per tree protected, with average density in the project-assisted villages reaching 41 gao seedlings per hectare. The per-hectare and per-tree costs of this form of reforestation are but a small fraction of the cost of rainfed industrial plantations in the same zone, which require a minimum of 100,000 FCFA per hectare.51 Gao trees are highly adapted to agroforestry systems. The trees do not occur in bush areas nearly as frequently as in cultivated fields. All types of rural producers recognize their value and project sustainability is thus potentially quite good. Project test sites indicate that millet production under a gao tree canopy is 1.78 times the production of comparable plots without gao trees.52

The FAC/CCCE Project sought primarily to encourage individual farmers to identify, stake and mark, and avoid cutting young, naturally regenerated A. albida. Farmers were paid 30 FCFA or US$ 0.10 for each gao seedling identified. They received 10 FCFA for each of the two following years if they maintained the seedling--weeded, pruned and restaked it if necessary -and it survived.

A controversy exists about the advisability of paying farmers commissions for this activity. Some argue that farmers should not be paid for protecting gao since they all recognize the tree's value in local production systems. Commissions might be justified, however, this group says, for species that are less highly valued by producers but nonetheless could shore up productivity.53 The other position is based on findings of a Nigerien research team composed of a sociologist and a forester. This team maintains that while the amount per tree may be minimal, producers can earn up to 20,000 to 30,000 FCFA in a year by identifying 666 to 1,000 trees on their fields.' Even 5,000 FCFA (US$ 16) would be a significant sum for most Dosso area rural producers. Furthermore, survey research interviews in 18 villages where Project GAO/FAC/CCCE or UNSO personnel had been active indicated that some half of the adults had identified gao seedlings in their fields.54 Of those, only two-thirds had received commissions (the unrewarded one-third were reportedly unhappy). Half of those receiving commissions indicated that the money was an important incentive motivating them to persist with the activity.55

Several points should be made here. Paying for changes in recipients' behaviour and then phasing out support generally undermines project sustainability and local initiative. Producers reasonably conclude that if outsiders or the government paid them once, they can be induced to pay again if producers are prepared to strike until they get the "going rate". Paying rural producers to carry out activities which benefit them directly encourages them to conceal their true preferences, in this case for higher crop yields under a gao canopy, in order to extract an additional short-term gain. That critique does not, however, resolve the issue of motivation, which is complex. Environmental management is likely to be a low-priority concern in drought-exposed areas where food supplies are uncertain and primary service levels (such as medical services, potable water supply, agricultural inputs and education) inadequate.56

The Nigerien researchers argue that direct cash incentives are necessary to get producers to focus on the long-term issue of buffering production systems against such things as drought, wind erosion, nutrient mining and shrinking livestock forage sources. In the initial stages of the project, some farmers worried that the government was trying to establish title to their fields. They protected seedlings, but did not claim the commission for fear of the land tenure implications, that is, officials would claim they'd "sold their trees" to the government. Moreover, the costs of repeated annual visits by project officials to spot check farmers' reported seedling counts in randomly selected fields probably exceed costs of commissions. However, if people are suspicious about project activities, continued positive contact with project personnel will tend both to allay suspicions and to confirm producers' rights to the trees. The issue of gao tree tenure rights is of major importance and dealt with below. Some interviewees also said they understood the value of gao seedlings, but their children did not. A few FCFA considerably sharpened the eyesight of the younger generation.

In the first year of the FAC/CCCE Gao Project, a number of mini-nurseries were organized in some villages to produce A. albida (and several other species) for out-planting in farmers' fields.

The UNSO Gao Project is being implemented by personnel seconded from the Dosso Departmental Office of the Nigerien Forestry and Wildlife Service, with financing provided to UNSO by SIDA. Technical assistance is being supplied, in part, by UNDP and, in part, under an UNSO contract by a private consulting firm, Swedeforest. The project has three separate components:

  • protection of natural regeneration of A. albida and, in some 30 communities (10 villages in each of three arrondissements), five other locally endangered species as well; protection is either restricted to simple identification or involves identification, pruning young trees and ensuring that they grow erect by staking them to a painted stick;
  • artificial regeneration of A. albida through production of plants in village mininurseries, planting out by individual farmers on their own fields and protection of the seedlings after planting out by surrounding them with locally made wicker cylinders; and
  • agroforestry research, focused to date on developing low-cost, simple seedling production techniques (especially replacement of polyethylene nursery pots by pressed earth clod containers) and identifying forestry species which might be integrated into existing rural production systems and, in future, on a tighter integration of existing and new agricultural techniques.

As with the other case studies included in this document, the materials presented below are organized in light of the overall theoretical framework for institutional analysis and design:

  • analysis of the attributes of goods and services, that is, the economic character of the wood these projects proposed to produce;
  • description of the sets of rules that provide the institutional framework for resource management, through which production of the good is organized and access and use of the good are controlled;
  • the interactions that result from the strategies representative individuals adopt concerning the good; and
  • the outcomes, briefly discussed herein terms of equity and efficiency in promoting food production and environmental management.

The projects


Private Goods. The attributes of goods -- Acacia albida trees on farmlands -- in both projects is predominately private in character. The trees are stationary. Exclusion is feasible for most important services, though not for consumptive goods. Consumption of forestry products, and of main environmental and agricultural services, is separable. The motivations which project personnel use in urging farmers to plant and protect the trees clearly stress their private good aspects. The private services and goods associated with A. albida trees can be classified into two categories: on-site services and consumptive goods. Private on-site services include the following:

  • protection against soil erosion on farmers' fields (reduction in wind velocity, with consequent reduction in the amount of fine, A-horizon, nutrient rich particles carried off by the wind);
  • soil reconstitution, such as nutrient pumping, introduction of nutrient-rich leaves into the soil at the beginning of each rainy season when the leaves fall, increase in soil organic matter (leaves and roots), and nitrogen-fixation (since A. albida is a legume);
  • improvement of the microclimate in the area immediately surrounding each tree (a gao tree improves the microclimate in the area shaded by its branches, first by a baffle effect, which reduces wind current speed and thus desiccation of crops planted in the immediate vicinity of the tree and also the danger to young plants of damage from windwhipped sand particles, and second by a dappled shade effect during the summer growing season, which reduces light and heat intensity, making crops planted under the trees more drought resistant).

Open access, not common property goods. By contrast with the predominantly private services produced by gao trees, the consumptive products the trees generate in the Dosso setting are open access goods. Open access goods are subject to exploitation by an indeterminate set of users: consumption of goods and services is competitive. Consumptive goods which are open access in character include the following:

  • browse (the leaves, which remain green and tender throughout the dry season, are avidly consumed by sheep, goats, cows and camels in the latter half of the dry season when vitamin-rich green leafy material is at a premium and can make the difference between survival and death for hard-pressed local animals);
  • building poles and fencing materials (the cut branches that remain after leaves have been browsed off are used in hut and house construction, and both poles and thorny twigs are used in fencing);
  • materials for farm and household implements and utensils (such as tool handles, mortars and pestles); and
  • firewood (any wood not used for building or fencing can be used as fuel).

During the six-month period from the first rains through the harvest, these consumptive goods are more easily subject to exclusion because the farmers using the fields where they grow can and do control access. However, during the six-month-long dry season from December through May, all stock owners are at liberty to allow their animals to rove over fields as they please. People likewise move freely over the bare fields. During this period, the open access character of A. albida consumptive goods is often pronounced. Unless trees are fenced, guards are posted, or an interested party happens along at the right time, little prevents animals and humans from using the trees and their products as they will.

When the trees arrive at the stage of seed production, during November to February, they generate protein-rich scedpods, another open access good, which roving livestock consume as they fall to the ground. Seed pods are open access goods because it is difficult to harvest them under controlled conditions. They fall from the tree when ripe, over a period of some weeks. Since fields are not enclosed, it is difficult to exclude animals. Utilization (consumption) of the pods is separable and highly competitive.

Public good. Acacia albida trees may also produce a public good in the form of generalized stabilization or improvement in the local climate. This is simply the cumulative effect of the microclimate improvement created by each tree. If tree densities exceed 35 per hectare, over a number of adjacent hectares, the overall local climate is likely to become somewhat more healthful for humans as well as for animals and plants. Climate improvement is a public good because those who frequent the area cannot be excluded from benefitting from generally available improved conditions, while consumption of the good by those same individuals is joint or non-competitive.

Figure 16 (see page 94) classifies these goods and services using the expanded standard table.


The fundamental institution now governing access to and exploitation of A. albida products--the Nigerien Forestry Code -- treats the trees as a common property good at the national level. The Forestry Code includes A. albida as one of the 15 trees on the protected species list. The Nigerien Forestry and Wildlife Service is responsible for managing the trees as a national common property and access to these trees is formally controlled by the Forestry and Wildlife Service. Anyone wishing to harvest such protected trees for personal or commercial use is required to obtain a cutting permit. Field owners may obtain the permits free of charge if they intend to make non-commercial use of the harvested wood. Permits authorizing commercial use must be purchased. Recent amendments to the Forestry Code have increased the cost of commercial permits for A. albida to 5,000 FCFA per tree harvested.

The community of potential users in principle is international: a permit can be issued to anyone who requests one. The Forestry and Wildlife Service, in theory, guarantees the right of any member of this international set against all other members that they are under a duty to avoid exploiting the resource for consumptive uses unless authorized by appropriate officials. Furthermore, any member of the international set can obtain a limited liberty of exploitation for personal or commercial use by acquiring a cutting permit. All members of the set are exposed to the consequences of authorized liberties of exploitation exercised by any other members of the set. The Forestry and Wildlife Service is assumed to regulate the use or the withdrawal from the standing A. albida woodstock of partial or whole use units (branches or whole trees) to ensure that the A. albida resource capital is maintained or enhanced over time.

Figure 16 - Types of goods and services


Attributes of Acacia albida goods and services given technology without rules








Public- goods and services

Toll goods and services


    - generalized improvement in local climate


Common pool goods and services

Private goods and services

Open access

(consumptive products)

    - firewood

    - poles

    - fencing materials

    - wooden implements

    - browse

    - seed pods

(on-site, year-round)

    - erosion control

    - soil reconstitution

    - improved micro-climate near trees

    (consumptive products,

    rainy season)

    - firewood

    - poles

    - fencing materials

    - wooden implements

    - browse

In effect, the Forestry and Wildlife Service is empowered, by stipulating when, where and how many A. albida may be cut, to manage the resource. This resource is legally defined not as a predominantly private good, as the attributes of goods analysis indicates it to be, but as a. common property resource. The Forestry and Wildlife Service is also empowered to protect the private, on-site services produced by the tree (soil conservation and enrichment) and the public good of environmental protection generated by the trees as another on-site service.

The owners of fields where gao trees grow are burdened with a special duty by the Code. They are required to prevent unauthorized harvesting of the trees, defined as exploitation without an official permit. This regulation concerns all 15 tree species on the protected species list. If a tree is cut on an individual's field and a forester identifies the infraction, the field owner is personally liable to pay the fine unless and until he identifies the person responsible for the infraction. This Code provision, in effect, creates a right in all others that the common property trees be preserved unless legally harvested.

The obvious intent is to foster a local enforcement system which will function to protect the trees during all those times when foresters are not physically present in a given field. However, the intent is imperfectly realized in practice. Individual field owners or members of their family may prevent illegal cutting if they happen upon an individual illegally harvesting gao wood on their lands, but organized efforts to patrol fields and protect the trees seem to be extremely rare. In part, this reflects the effects of government-imposed impediments to local-level organization. This is discussed in more detail in the Recommendations, on pages 101 to 103, in this case study.

In terms of formal Code provisions, the trees may be trimmed up to the height a man can reach with an axe. This encourages the tree to grow taller and thus to mature more quickly. That way it begins producing desired goods and services more rapidly. It is also formally permissible to prune clumps of A. albida shoots to promote the growth of the best in the clump. Finally, users are formally allowed to cut branches from A. albida in order to obtain forage or building poles, so long as the operation does not endanger the tree.

These formal rules -- which have never been translated into texts written in local languages -- are as usual subject to interpretation by field foresters, who exercise their considerable determining powers in deciding particular cases. Practices adopted by representative field foresters will be discussed below, once the FAC/CCCE/UNSO gao project institutions concerning property rights and management of A. albida have been outlined.

UNSO project personnel have proceeded on the tacit assumption thatA. albida trees planted or protected, as natural regeneration in individuals' fields, are to belong to the individuals concerned.

Interviews in seven Nigerien communities57 where villagers had either planted or protected A. albida revealed a highly nuanced sense of property rights in the trees in question. The consensus expressed by speakers in all villages indicates a fundamental belief that the trees belong to those who plant or protect them. In some communities, a minority of interviewees indicated that trees protected or planted on a commission basis in fact belong to project officials, foresters, or the GON. Most did not expect officials to claim them and did expect to continue to benefit from on-site and perhaps even from some consumptive uses.

Most speakers seemed to feel they had a right that all others would avoid cutting or pruning trees they had planted. Many indicated that they had little difficulty in asserting their rights and making others, particularly Fulbe herders, observe non-owners' corresponding and equivalent duties of avoidance if they found them in the act of cutting. Obtaining information in a timely manner on unauthorized use does, however, pose a serious problem. The exclusion issue has not been resolved so that wood and forest products remain, in terms of the working rules, open access goods.

The question of exploitation for consumptive uses produced the greatest range of answers. Some farmers indicated they could use the trees when and as they wished. Acting upon this assumption would, in the current state of the law, constitute an infraction of the Forestry Code. Others indicated they could exploit dead A. albida, but that they would simply not cut live A. albida. Still others indicated they would have to have permission from the forester (or from project personnel) before they could use live trees. Some, finally, seemed to believe that the trees did not really belong to them them since they had been" sold" to project personnel. Their liberties of access and exploitation were thus limited strictly to on-site services (such as protection against wind erosion and soil enrichment), so long as the "owners" left the trees on their land.

UNSO project personnel indicated in interviews that they hope the Forestry Code will be modified to provide for individual ownership of A. albida trees that farmers plant or protect on their fields. They expect such changes to be integrated into the new Rural Code, which the GON is expected to publish sometime within the next three years. If the Rural Code meets the expectations of project personnel, farmers planting and protecting A. albida will be confirmed in their sentiment that the trees belong to them.

The Rural Code may change the existing rules to recognize A. albida trees on private lands as private property. As part of this, owners may be authorized to regulate access on their own terms, including preventing all others from using the trees and exploiting them for consumptive uses without the necessity of obtaining prior authorization from Forestry and Wildlife Service officials. If this occurs, it will bring the legal (institutional) definition of the trees into line with their predominantly private nature, that is, characterized by exclusion and separable consumption. It will also amount to a significant increase in the value of A. albida trees to farmers, not just in terms of the consumptive uses they may make of the trees, but also in terms of selling or trading those rights to others and protecting the trees from unauthorized harvesting so that their value in producing on-site uses is also preserved.

It remains to be seen whether such a shift in ownership rights would be voluntarily accepted and respected by other current users, for example, transhumant Fulbe herders; those who without authorization collect wood anywhere in a local area for their personal use (thereby converting the formally common property A. albida into an open access resource); and commercial wood cutters armed with cutting permits.

A local norm, which occurs widely throughout Nigerien rural areas, provides that an individual who invests effort in a resource thereby creates a private right to the resource. This norm may help reduce unauthorized use of the trees. Either plantation and protection or protection alone represent investments in producing new increments of the A. albida resource. Whatever the legal character of A. albida located outside private fields, those on fields would in theory be recognized as private goods if expected Code modifications materialize. Unauthorized appropriation by those under duty to avoid consumptive use without the owner's permission would in effect be stealing. This is a strikingly different moral interpretation of the act which is now seen as appropriation of a part of an effectively unmanaged (open access) resource.

Whether existence of this norm, and inclusion of A. albida on private fields in the set of goods covered by it, would suffice to validate ownership rights is problematic. Transhumant herders often reject the norm when sedentary farmers' private goods -- field and garden crops as well as trees -- are concerned.58 They operate in light of a competing norm which gives them the right to use resources that occur on what were formerly pasture areas or areas formerly open to herders during the dry season. Population growth, conversion of former pastures in marginal areas to field agriculture, and particularly farmers' new practice of collecting and stocking crop residues make it increasingly difficult for most herders to find sufficient forage for their animals. The temptation under these conditions to appropriate what in formal terms is farmers' private property becomes intense.59


Strategies which cultivators adopt concerning activities promoted by the two A. albida projects seem to be quite varied. The variation probably reflects the way different villagers assess the value of the on-site uses of A. albida trees in their particular fields. The variation probably also reflects differences in individuals' concerns about the property rights implications of the projects' commission programmes as well as of Forestry Code rules.

In general, villagers report that they have, under the aegis of the projects, planted and protected or protected more A. albida trees than they did in the past. Some respondents reported this was largely an increase in the intensity of protection activity, rather than entirely new behaviour. Rapid examination of several fields in a number of communities indicates that in both the FAC/CCCE Gao Project and the UNSO Gao Project villages, areas exist where young A. albida are to be found in considerable numbers and in a variety of ages. Respondents reported this was a generalized phenomenon. The mission could not verify this point because time was too short.

Many respondents said that they do not report young A. albida trees to project personnel, but they nonetheless protect them. They imply there is no reason to mark the trees if they want them in their fields because they and their family members know what young A. albida look like and can avoid damaging them when weeding.

Other respondents -- as well as both FAC/CCCE and UNSO Gao Project personnel (Nigerien foresters) -- say many farmers under report trees they have identified. Why do farmers behave in this fashion? Several reasons can be suggested:

  • the amount of money obtained as a bonus for protecting trees is nominal and some do not consider it worth the effort, especially if they have to distribute it as pocket money to those who help identify the trees;60
  • some farmers are, or at least in the first years of the FAC/CCCE Gao Project were, afraid that the GON or the foresters wanted to establish title or usufructory rights to their lands and so thought it expedient to avoid formal participation, even though many may actually have protected more trees;
  • some farmers don't plant or protect trees because they still believe they can't harvest them without authorization from the Forestry and Wildlife Service;
  • so long as Forestry Code regulations hold in their current form, farmers can be held legally responsible and fined for any protected species cut on their fields if they do not identify the individual who actually cut the tree; and
  • me farmers may still assess the downside risks of maintaining trees in fields, for example, the possibility of pest infestations, as sufficiently severe to make A. albida plantation/protection unattractive.

Concern that the project will reclaim the trees is unfounded. However, from the perspective of rural producers, this fear is by no means irrational. Farmers and pastoralists know that both foresters and projects come and go. Tree planters/protectors are not systematically provided with written title to the gao trees they allow to grow in their fields -- indeed, this would violate the terms of the current Forestry Code.

The extent of A. albida planters' and protectors' rights against others is not clear at this point. Do they have a right against all others? Are the latter under a duty to avoid using protected/ planted trees unless they obtain authorization from the owners? Or are planters/protectors exposed to others' exercise of their liberties to exploit the gao, for example, herders exercising traditional usufructory rights to lop branches or woodcutters armed with permits? Most foresters do not specifically authorize permit holders to cut gao branches or trees on farmers' fields. They report that they tell cutters to harvest wood in the bush. But bush areas are disappearing and, in any case, gao trees grow most frequently in farmed fields. Foresters may simply not be able to enforce a duty of avoidance against such individuals, so that the effective, or working rules leave gao planters and protectors exposed. If they are so exposed, the extent of their ownership rights is sharply reduced. The value of the trees must be correspondingly discounted.

To what extent are planters and protectors at liberty to exploit gao on their own fields for personal use? Can they exploit the trees when and as they wish or are they required to obtain authorization from foresters? To what extent are planters and protectors at liberty to make commercial use of their trees, for example, to sell browse to herders or wood for construction or fuel? Can they do as they wish or must they obtain authorization from the foresters? If their liberty of exploitation is limited by a duty to obtain permission before they exploit the trees, this clearly increases the transactions costs involved in converting trees into marketable products, and correspondingly reduces the attractiveness of tree planting.

Foresters' normal exercise of their determining powers may heighten the uncertainty of tree tenure rules. If field foresters in the project areas exercise the same sort of determining powers which foresters do elsewhere in rural areas of Niger, the degree of uncertainty surrounding gao planters' and protectors' rights is significant. The interpretation of rights may change each time a new forester is posted to an area. If he chooses to exercise determining powers in a manner different from the predecessor, the extent of rights and duties, liberties and exposures will be modified accordingly. Disputes over interpretation of rights are most likely to be resolved in administrative hearings by the forester who identifies the infraction. Since the forester is in effect judge in his own cause in this situation, the ambiguity of rights in gao trees is intensified. Since Forestry Code rules have never been translated, printed and diffused in local languages, popular uncertainty and misinformation concerning tree tenure rules are to be expected. This will generally dampen producers' interest in reforestation and agroforestry.

One interesting piece of information was provided by a project forester. He indicated-without specifying names, numbers or places -- that non-project foresters, operating out of arrondissement forestry offices, have on occasion fined gao tree protectors for cutting or lopping their "own" trees. If true, those officials are merely applying the Forestry Code to the strict letter of the law. However, the impact of a few such decisions can be devastating for future efforts to promote participatory management of gao and potentially of other species. For rural producers, as for most human beings, actions speak louder than words.

Farmers have good reason to know about and be wary of the determining powers which forestry officials can exercise in such situations. Most peasants want to avoid confrontations with officials. Such interactions are far too dangerous when peasants are relatively powerless and officials quite powerful. When the project ends and new foresters are assigned to Dosso Department posts as part of the standard administrative rotation of civil servants, what guarantees do planters and protectors have that the new officials will recognize their rights? Or that their successors will? The honest answer, at the moment, is that rural producers have no such guarantees, and the UNSO Gao Project is not authorized to provide any. Producer skepticism under the circumstances is realistic.

The Rural Code, which a GON ad hoc committee is currently preparing, may appear within the next several years. If it does, it could change the tree tenure property rights situation dramatically. But rural producers do not know this. Nor is there any guarantee the Rural Code will in fact be accorded official approval and disseminated. The project is asking rural producers to take a risk in this respect.


The equity and efficiency outcomes that result from the current organization of woodstock management under the UNSO Gao Project are complex and difficult to estimate on the basis of a limited visit. The following remarks are speculative in nature and should be evaluated as such.

A. albida play an important role in the mixed farming, agricultural and pastoral production systems commonly found in Dosso Department. At the time of field investigations, the FAC/ CCCE and UNSO Gao Projects had been in operation for a total of seven years. In the Dosso area, those years were characterized by mediocre to poor rainfall and gao trees were under considerable insect pressure. This may well have been provoked by a lowering of water tables in the area and subsequent weakening of the trees' ability to resist insect attacks. In any case dead or dying gao were observed in all age classes. Given their importance in local production systems, heightened popular interest in promoting increase in the gao population can be assumed.

Despite popular interest, equity and efficiency criteria seem to be imperfectly met. The causes lie not in the nature of the project, but in contradictions between the attribute of the good, on the one hand, and the character of the rules governing interactions concerning the trees.

Equity criterion

One set of equity concerns involved in gao silviculture turn on the extent to which those who make investments in regenerating gao stands can reliably expect to derive benefits from them. If a planted or protected tree is pruned and allowed to mature without undue browsing or lopping by human and animal users, the individual who uses the field on which the tree grows will derive significant benefits from on-site environmental services. These include reducing wind erosion, crop damage and increasing soil nutrients. If, on the other hand, attempts to raise planted or protected gao are frustrated by unauthorized browsing and inappropriate cutting, the equity criterion will be violated.

It is an empirical question whether those who attempt to culture gao trees on their fields will find the effort worthwhile over the long run. Clearly farmers must consider that the risk-adjusted, time-discounted combination of short- and long-term benefits associated with gao silviculture is great enough to justify the investment before they will commit to, and persist with, a gao regeneration effort.

The role of livestock and livestock owners in this calculation is significant. If browsing animals destroy young gao trees and herders overcut mature gao trees in trying to supply their animals with green protein during the dry season, users of fields where gao regeneration is underway will most likely consider that herders have taken inequitable advantage of their silvicultural efforts. If gao-producing individuals arc mixed farmers with their own animals, they can be expected to resent "unauthorized" uses even more.

Equity considerations appear to stock owners, particularly transhumant pastoralists, in a somewhat different light. They must be placed in the broader context of continuing conversion by agriculturalists to cultivated fields of marginal lands formerly left as open access pastures. Herders have suffered as these lands have been shifted from the stock of pastures to fields dominated by individual agriculturalists. They can argue that reduction of open access pasture areas has damaged them. They might well derive as much nutrient usable by their animals from the residues of crops produced on lands formerly left in pasture. However, agriculturalists now increasingly stock the best crop residues as forage for their own animals. This significantly restricts herders' access to the residues.

No easy answers exist to reconcile these two conflicting positions. Strategies could be developed to reconcile them to some extent, but they depend on several changes in the framework of rules which currently guides interactions concerning the gao trees. It should be noted that choice of strategies should be guided by a concern for efficiency in regenerating the stock of gao trees in the project areas and indeed throughout the southern zones of Niger where the trees will grow.

Efficiency criterion

The above analysis suggests that gao trees should be produced, cultured and managed in large numbers wherever possible on arable lands. The trees are highly compatible with all local production systems. They reduce environmental degradation and shore up or improve productivity of both agricultural and stock-raising enterprises. They also make possible fence and house construction. It is far more efficient to have farmers produce, manage and culture the trees than it is to rely on foresters to do so.

If the current situation is assessed in light of that definition of efficiency, existing rules discourage rural producers from meeting it. Gao Project personnel, including Nigerien foresters seconded to the operation, are trying to promote investment in regeneration of the gao woodstock by appropriate methods. Production of gao seedlings in nurseries and planting out in fields is more energy intensive than simple protection of natural regeneration wherever a naturally occurring seed supply and appropriate soils exist. But where seeds are not locally available, planting may be indispensable. (Seeds could be collected elsewhere, fed to animals stabled at target regeneration sites, and allowed to sprout from the droppings and mature with protection being the only additional investment required.) The project clearly emphasizes both approaches. In either case, gao culture by producers is far more efficient than direct investments by the Forest Service in regenerating the gao woodstock. Since both projects sought to promote gao agroforestry by producers, project methods incorporate a strong element of efficiency.

Yet despite sustained efforts by project personnel, commitment among Dosso-area farmers to production, protection and sustained yield exploitation of gao trees and other valuable local species on their lands remains tentative. Practical contradictions between the Forestry Code regulations and the anti-Forestry Code rules of the Gao Projects concerning ownership of gao trees and others species on the protected list may well dissuade rural producers from a more positive commitment to agroforestry applications of gao trees. Producers' concerns about who owns the trees, who controls access to them, who enjoys liberty to use them under what conditions, and who is responsible for bearing the costs of replenishing local woodstocks are clearly justified. If the working rules of tree tenure tend to burden farmers with exposures rather than vesting them with defensible rights, while leaving others at liberty to exploit cultured gao trees rather than imposing a duty of avoidance, farmers will find the investment risky. If the working rules of tree tenure allow field foresters to exercise significant determining powers, farmers will again find the investment risky.

At the field level where tree tenure rules arc applied by roving foresters, incidents reportedly occur where farmers who have planted or protected gao trees on their fields are fined by nonproject foresters when they trim those trees. For most producers, this suggests that tree tenure rules have not changed and the old legal disincentives, which discourage investing in woodstock promotion, persist.


Recommendations concern ways to increase producer involvement in gao agroforestry (tree production and management). To a large extent, these recommendations reiterate proposals already under consideration by those revising the Forestry Code and developing framework legislation -- the Code Rural -- for rural land-use management. The present recommendations seek to eliminate the contradictions and ambiguities concerning gao tree ownership. They also seek to increase the likelihood that producers will adequately protect gao seedlings and will manage the trees for sustained yield. Two elements are involved here: (1) clarifying gao tree tenure (and by extension, tree tenure rights to other currently protected and unprotected species) and (2) decreasing the costs to producers of organizing to promote more effective agroforestry and woodstock management on local lands. The recommendations take account of both equity and efficiency concerns, but efficiency concerns dominate.

Tree tenure

Control over renewable resources, including gao trees and other protected and unprotected species, should be transferred to producers. That recommendation is now accorded widespread support by Nigerien officials.

Questions arise about choices among possible types of producers as tree managers and the extent to which control should be transferred to them. Control might be vested in sedentary people or it might be vested in transhumant herders. Control might be vested in either type of producer at the individual level, for example, field owner or field user. Control might also be vested in some existing public jurisdiction such as the hamlet, quarter, village or tribe, canton or pastoral group, or arrondissement. Or it might be vested in a new type of special district, to be created specifically as a tree or land use management jurisdiction, perhaps starting in selected project areas. Each of these options involves advantages and disadvantages.

Which type of producer -- sedentary or transhumant -- should be vested with overriding interest in cultured gao trees? Practical considerations point to the sedentary producers as the most appropriate targets for vesting tree tenure rights. They have recognized and extensive property rights to lands under cultivation as well as to fallowed land under certain conditions. Local farm families operate as sedentary production units. Individual members may be more mobile than transhumant pastoralists and may leave the area for long periods of time on labour migration, but a family core group remains at home except during the most serious drought years.

Agricultural families and local stock owners can produce and protect gao trees more efficiently than can transhumant pastoralists: the former maintain a steady presence in the area, cultivate fields where the trees regenerate, and frequent those same areas during at least half the year. Protection of the trees is to some extent a costless by-product of other activities. In addition, they are more familiar with local institutions, particularly dispute resolution mechanisms, local moots and civil court judicial procedures. As such, they are more likely to have recourse to such institutions because transactions costs to them are lower than they are to transhumant pastoralists.

Pastoralists by contrast follow an annual circuit of pastures and do not remain long in any single area. They do not have recognized properly claims to local areas (at best they now enjoy only tenuous usufructory rights). They are less familiar with local institutions and thus face higher transactions costs in attempting to resolve disputes.

Questions now arise concerning attribution of control over woodstock resources to sedentary people. What is the appropriate unit?

  • the individual land user?
  • the family unit which claims property rights in a set of fields?
  • a hamlet, quarter, village or tribe, canton or group, or arrondissement?
  • a special district created specifically to deal with woodstock management?

Answers should reflect the nature of the good as an important element in determining subsequent interactions concerning the resource. As noted in the attributes of goods and services discussion, gao trees in particular produce services which are predominately private in character. These services -- protection against environmental degradation and microclimate improvement -- mainly help produce privately appropriable goods, that is, better crop yields. Field crops are private not because exclusion is easily possible, however. Rather they have the character of private goods because farmers are normally in their fields during the growing season and are able to prevent by their mere presence most violations due to the very strong, widely respected working rules which treat field crops as private goods.

The private character of crops is reinforced by national rules which effectively convert the character of fields from open access resources during the dry season to private property during the growing season and through the end of harvest. The national rules achieve this alternation by making stock owners liable for any damage their animals may cause to standing crops. This would argue for transfer of control over planted and protected gao trees to field owners or field users (individuals or families).

Woodstock management institutions

Merely declaring gao trees private property does not eliminate the problem of rule enforcement. If individual owners are left to defend their trees against unauthorized use, it is highly likely that wood poaching will occur during the post-harvest dry season when sedentary people go less frequently to their fields.

Control might also be vested in some existing general purpose jurisdiction, or in an as-yet-to-be-created special woodstock or land-use management jurisdiction. The choice here is delicate. Such a transfer would convert gao trees from what is now formally a national common property resource to a common property resource at some subnational level. Gao management at the arrondissement level would likely suffer from the same disabilities as does the existing national level common property because it would rely on the same personnel for management. The canton offers an alternative, but transactions costs of obtaining approval and dispute resolution would still be significant for most producers, given the distance separating their villages from the canton seat. Serious questions would also arise concerning rule-enforcement mechanisms and control of access to common property gao trees for consumptive uses among sedentary residents of the canton.

At the village, quarter and hamlet levels, management of gao trees as private or common property resources is somewhat more feasible. The set of potential sedentary users is much smaller. They all know each other. Mutual control is likely to be somewhat more effective because of higher information levels. Problems concerning mechanisms to ensure respect for access and use rules and provide enforcement as necessary will nonetheless arise at these levels, as at higher ones.

The issue of pastoralists' access to the gao trees and their cooperation in preserving both immature and adult trees is fundamental to any solution which could be sustainable over the long term. Local stock owners and herders are likely to take priority over transhumant pastoralists in access to gao forage during the dry season. To ensure that the latter group are not cut off from local forage sources, it would be possible to establish a law guaranteeing them access. Such a law would be difficult to enforce over the resistance of sedentary people, however. On balance, pastoralists will more likely be able to revive amicable relationships with local farmers or communities if left to work out arrangements on an informal basis. Transhumant herds do offer an additional source of fertilizer to sedentary communities, so pastoralists are not entirely without bargaining power in negotiating relationships.

At least four options exist to deal with enforcement of localized tree tenure rules. All involve engaging a guard or guards to patrol areas where gao and possibly other tree species are under management. If control over trees were to be vested in individuals or families, family members might be assigned to protect family lands, but the small size of most holdings would make this generally uneconomical. A second option, under private tree tenure, would be to finance guards by a fee for service, that is, landowners or land users would pay guards in cash or kind to protect their trees. A third option, possible if gao trees were to be turned over to the local community as a common property resource and if the managing jurisdiction could obtain authorization, would involve financing guard services through the proceeds from auctions of stubble grazing rights on managed lands. A fourth option, again on the assumption of common property tree tenure, would resolve the financing problem by authorizing the managing jurisdiction to set and raise taxes among its own population.

Voluntary contributions would appear to be ineffective as a solution, given the long-term nature of the problem: protection must be assured on a continuous basis throughout each dry season until such time as economical enclosure techniques become available.

In the political context of contemporary Niger, the village is likely to be the only viable local unit for managing gao trees as common property resources. The village and cantonal councils are officially recognized as decision-making units, but the extent to which they might be able to manage woodstocks effectively remains to be seen.

Another critical issue concerns the extent to which state officials, presumably foresters, would retain power to supervise the exercise of private or common property ownership rights and associated enforcement powers at the local level. Clearly state supervisory power is justified, to some limited extent, to ensure that mismanagement by one local community does not significantly damage neighbouring jurisdictions. However, if supervisory powers are too extensive, they will rapidly discourage local efforts at management. The working rule will continue to be that of state management of gao trees.

46 The term "gao" refers to the acacia tree species A. albida. The term is the same in both Zarma and Hausa, the two major languages indigenous to the project area.


47 FAC grant: 301/C/DDE/79/NGR


48 CCCE credit: 58 27 00 79 10 0


49 République du Niger/Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement/ Département de Dosso/Projet GAO/FAC/CCCE, Rapport Annuel 1984, prepared by Inchaou Galadima Mamane, Contrôlleur des Eaux et Forêts (Dosso, Niger, 1984), p. 2


50 République du Niger/Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement/Projet Forestier GAO (Dosso), Convention de financement; I Rapport d'Activité; II Programme Technique; III Budget de fonctionnement (Dosso, Niger, 1983), p.33.


51 Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique. Département d'Appui aux Opérations, Division des Politiques Sectorielles et des Evaluations, "Evaluation Retrospective du Projet Acacia Albida dans le Département de Dosso au Niger," prepared by C. Barrier, p. 8.


52 République du Niger/Ministère de L'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement/Projet Forestier GAO (Dosso), Convention de financement ..., p. 24.


53 Caisse Centrale de Coopération Economique ..., p. 8-9.


54 The no-limit piecework approach creates an inappropriate incentive for farmers to preserve clumps of gao seedlings rather than selecting the strongest plant in a bunch and pruning back all the others. Naturally occurring seedlings tend to grow in bunches because they are "planted" after passage through the digestive track in the droppiggs of goats, sheep and cows. The plants should be radically thinned to prevent undue competition. Modifying the incentive structure would require rules limiting the number of plants per hectare and requiring reasonable spacing among plants. Enforcement would be no more difficult than is the current system however.


55 République du Niger/Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement/Projet Forestier GAO (Dosso), "Etude sociologique: dégradation des ressources forestières," Doka Marthe Diarra, Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, et Mounkaila Goumandakoye, Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement (Niamey, Niger, April 1986), p. 23.


56 République du Niger/Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement/Projet Forestier GAO (Dosso), "Etude sociologique: dégradation des ressources forestières," p. 29.


57 The names of the villages where interviews were conducted are presented by arrondissement (all located in the Dosso Department), followed by an indication of the dominant ethnic group and the project practices adopted.


58 James T. Thomson (1986), "Politics of Sahelian Desertification: Centralization, Non-Participation, Inaction," Divesting Nature's Capital: The Political Economy of Environmental Abuse in the Third World, ed. by H. Jeffrey Leonard (New York, NY: Holmes and Meier, 1985), pp. 227-62.


59 Nigerien agriculturalists repeatedly assert that herders are always ready to put their animals into field crops or gardens to increase stock survival rates. Pastoralists usually pay fines without undue resistance if caught, but because herders are mobile, farmers believe they heavily discount the risk of getting caught. Herders often further reduce the risk of identification by working at night. In formal terms, they treat nourishing vegetable matter as open access property and proceed, on a "tragedy of the commons" logic, to appropriate as much of it as possible for themselves.


60 The average commission amount claimed by farmers for identifying and protecting gao trees in 1983 was 3,600 FCFA. This was up from 2,500 FCFA in 1982 and 1,300 FCFA in 1981. See Caisse Centrale, "Evaluation Retrospective ...," p. 9.

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